One of the ironies of the 2010 election was that a solid percentage of the votes for Republicans came from senior citizens.
For example, senior citizens who comprised 24 percent of the total electorate supported Republicans much more strongly on Tuesday than they did two years ago, the exit polling showed. According to the data, 39 percent of senior citizens voted for Democrats, compared with 49 percent in 2008, while 58 percent supported Republicans, compared with 49 percent two years ago.In addition, senior citizens are one of the more reliable groups of voters. That is, they are the most likely to show up at the polls in any election. In 2010, they shifted their votes to Republicans, or were already committed Republicans, and they provided one of the principal voter blocks that enabled the Republicans to regain control of the House.
Senior citizens turned out in force, with the number of ballots cast by voters over 65 increasing by 16 percent. While making up only 13 percent of the U.S. resident population, Americans in this age group constituted 21 percent of 2010 voters. This age group also significantly increased their support of Republican candidates, from 49 percent in 2006 to 59 percent in 2010.Now, in the normal political scheme of things, this would constitute a constituency that Republicans would want to cater to. But since the rise of the Tea Parties, that has changed, and now seniors are in their crosshairs. Right after the election, a number of Republicans voted against a payment of $250 to SS recipients because there was not going to be any cost-of-living increase in Social Security. Then, once Republicans took office, they began rolling out new proposals. First up? Medicare.
The proposal would shift risk from the federal government to seniors themselves. The money seniors would get to buy their own policies would grow more slowly than their health-care costs, and more slowly than their expected Medicare benefits, which means that they'd need to either cut back on how comprehensive their insurance is or how much health-care they purchase. Exacerbating the situation -- and this is important -- Medicare currently pays providers less and works more efficiently than private insurers, so seniors trying to purchase a plan equivalent to Medicare would pay more for it on the private market.Medicare would, for all intents and purposes, cease to exist under the Republican plan. While they're working on that, they're also indulging in a little payback. One of the groups which came out in favor of the Affordable Care Act was AARP. Whatever one thinks of them, they are the largest and most influential lobbying organizations for seniors. Which is why the Republicans didn't like it that they came out in favor of ACA, and now they're "investigating" them.
The Ways and Means health and oversight subcommittees are hauling in the seniors lobby's executives before the panel for an April 1 hearing on how the group stands to benefit from the law, among other topics. Republicans say AARP supported the law's $200 billion in cuts to the Medicare Advantage program because it stands to gain financially as seniors replace their MA plans with Medicare supplemental insurance — or Medigap — policies endorsed by the association.
The hearing will cover not only Medigap but "AARP’s organizational structure, management, and financial growth over the last decade."Anyone who doesn't think that this is payback isn't paying attention to what the Republicans have been doing since the beginning of this year. But the pattern is now clear. It's not just the poor and the unions that are the target of Republicans. They're after the elderly as well.
That's where the irony comes in. Many of them voted for Republicans, because they bought into the notion that government spending was out of control, and that there were too many people getting entitlements - "sucking off the government teat," as it were - who didn't "deserve" them. What they didn't realize was that they were among "those people." They voted against their own interest, and it's going to be interesting to see when they realize that.